Three squads seeking their first-ever titles in the women's Final Four
🐅 No. 3 LSU Tigers — Greenville 2 region champions
How they got here: Call it a hot start or a weak schedule, but the Tigers were one of just two undefeated teams remaining in college hoops until mid-February. That said, they haven’t exactly silenced the doubters, surviving with ugly wins throughout the tourney. They’re nothing if not resilient.
Players to watch: If head coach Kim Mulkey’s ’fits aren’t too much of a distraction, keep your eyes on SEC single-season double-double record holder Angel Reese. From her jaw-dropping blocks to her fiery trash talk, it’s this Bayou Barbie’s world, and we’re all just living in it.
- Also overflowing with talent is silky smooth SEC Freshman of the Year (and rapper) Flau’jae Johnson, who averages over 11 points per game.
Key to success: Confidence, baby. The Tigers have been just scratching by, but you’d never guess it from the way they take the floor. Whether it’s capitalizing on turnovers or bringing their physicality, this young team keeps finding ways to win. Maybe they’ll find a way to become one of the lowest seeds to ever win the women’s tourney?
🦃 No. 1 Virginia Tech — Seattle 3 region champions
How they got here: First-ever ACC Tournament title, first No. 1 seed, first Final Four appearance — it’s been a season full of history for Virginia Tech. They really hit their stride down the stretch, going undefeated since January 29th with statement wins against Top 25 opponents. These Hokies could be soaring at exactly the right time.
Players to watch: Virginia Tech’s game runs through their one-two punch of ACC Player of the Year Elizabeth Kitley and her roommate/bestie/podcast co-hostGeorgia Amoore. The dynamic duo combined for 49 of the Hokies’ 84 points in their Elite Eight win, and their chemistry will be on full display tonight.
Key to success: Embrace their underdog status. Yes, it might seem strange to call a No. 1 seed an underdog, but this squad has largely flown under the radar. That’s only grown the chip on their shoulder, especially after last year’s unexpected first-round exit. No pressure, no diamonds.
🦅 No. 2 Iowa Hawkeyes — Seattle 4 region champions
How they got here: The Hawkeyes are back in the Final Four for the first time since 1993, and they’ve run up the score on their incredible run. Get this: Iowa’s outscored their opponents by an average of 21-points across their four NCAA Tournament games. Sheesh.
Players to watch: Caitlin Clark, perhaps you’ve heard of her? The newly crowned Player of the Year made history in the Elite Eight as the first player (women’s or men’s!) to net a 40-point triple-double in March Madness. Don’t look away, she might just pull up from the logo.
- Despite the fact that Clark’s contributed to a whopping 34% of the Hawkeyes’ tourney points, she doesn’t do it alone. Fifth-year Monika Czinano runs the show down low, netting an average of 16.5 points during the tourney.
Key to success: Continue toplay with pace. What Iowa lacks on defense, they more than make up for on offense, averaging a best-in-the-nation 87.6 points per game.
- But those eye-popping totals will certainly be harder to come by against the strong South Carolina defense (more on that below). The Hawkeyes will need to take advantage of the transition if they want to take down the defending champs.
🐔 No. 1 South Carolina Gamecocks — Greenville 1 region champions
How they got here: Sheer dominance. The Gamecocks have won an incredible 42 straight games dating back to last season, and they are now just two wins away from becoming the first undefeated champs since 2016.
- Their offensive is impressive, but South Carolina really thrives on D, holding opponents to less than 51 points a game on average throughout the tourney. You know what they say about defense…
Players to watch: Expected 2023 No. 1 WNBA draft pick and back-to-back Naismith Defensive Player of the Year Aliyah Boston, of course. Her offensive numbers are slightly down (largely due to being double- or even triple-teamed), but she’s still averaging a near double-double per game. Casual.
- South Carolina’s entire starting core is strong, but Kamilla Cardoso — the SEC’s Sixth Woman of the Year — coming off the bench has also been a major difference maker.
Key to success: Stay the course and trust head coach Dawn Staley. The Gamecocks are making their third straight Final Four appearance, so they’re clearly doing something right. If they can maintain their defensive dominance against Iowa’s loaded offense, there’s no reason to doubt the Gamecocks will fulfill their preseason destiny.
📺 How to tune in
The Friday night fun tips off at 7 p.m. ET on ESPN in the U.S. and TSN4 in Canada. And for those stateside, you can catch the Bird and Taurasi Show alternate telecast featuring GOATs Sue Bird and Diana Taurasi on ESPN2. Fill up your red Solo cup and lace up your dancing shoes — it’s almost game time!